What does leadership mean to you?
To the 16 Lexington-Richland School District 5 high school students in the Building Bridges Leadership Institute, it means having compassion, integrity and allowing others to lead.
Sponsored by Colonial Life and the District 5 Foundation, the Building Bridges Leadership Institute was created to provide students with opportunities to develop personal and civic leadership skills as a pathway to success in higher education, the workforce, the community and life.
The students chosen for this inaugural class were first nominated by teachers for their potential for leadership or current leadership roles and then screened during interviews with a selection committee. These students represent the four high schools in the Lexington-Richland 5 school district.
On Feb. 19, the students visited the Colonial Life headquarters for their first field study program. The day included a diversity and inclusion workshop, a leadership panel and a campus tour. Students also heard from Charlene Glidden, vice president of business planning and technology strategy, current undergraduate student interns and a recent college graduate who has transitioned to a full-time role.
Diamond Housey, a junior at Dutch Fork High School, was interested in the Building Bridges Leadership Institute because it would be another way to prepare her for the future.
“At Colonial Life, I learned the importance of asking questions and always saying yes to new opportunities,” said Housey.
Throughout the day, students learned what it means to be an inclusive leader and what they can do now to help prepare for succeeding in college, internships and their careers. From finding mentors and establishing a professional personal brand on social media, leaders across the Colonial Life business gave practical advice based on their own experience.
“Colonial Life is giving back to the next generation of leaders through this program,” said Patrick Olsen, a director in Operational Effectiveness at Colonial Life. “College will give these students’ academic knowledge, but leadership experience will help these students differentiate themselves for future employers and help them understand their own personal strengths and opportunities better.”
This field study is just the beginning for these students.
Over the course of the eight-month program, they will participate in a community service learning project and travel to Washington, D.C., to spend three days connecting their personal leadership discovery and service learning to United States history.
“Without Colonial Life, we would not have been able to create as high-level of programming as we’ve been able to for these students,” said Ray Canady, Building Bridges Leadership Institute school advisor from Irmo High School.
“These students were hand selected because of their excellent displays of leadership and at Colonial Life, they learned the value of building those leadership qualities in all areas of life,” said John Goodale, Building Bridges Leadership Institute project advisor and a teacher at Irmo Elementary School.
Colonial Life’s social responsibility efforts primarily focus on public education. As a company, Colonial Life is committed to supporting organizations that grow strong individuals and school leaders, more successful communities and a prepared future workforce.
“The Building Bridges Leadership Institute is in perfect alignment with this mission,” said Marie McGehee, community relations manager at Colonial Life. “By bringing together students of diverse backgrounds to learn from each other and grow their personal and civic leadership skills, they are working together in their journey for achieving success in life.”